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Latkes 101: Removing Excess Liquid [Moved from Kosher board]

What's the best way to remove the excess liquid from the grated potatoes? Is it enough to put the grated potatoes into a large strainer and let the liquid drip out? Do the grated potatoes need to be wrapped in a towel and squeezed? Is there an even better way to do this?

Also, I think I remember that after draining the liquid, my Bubbie would spill the liquid out of the bowl and then she'd scrape the starch that was at the bottom of the bowl out and put it back in with the potatoes. Does anyone do this, and, if so, how does this help the latkes?

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  1. Your Bubbie had a great idea; never thought of adding the potato starch back in; couldn't hurt as a thickener preventing watery latkes. I usually just take a small handful of grated potatoes and squeeze-seems to get enough water out of them. Towel would do the trick as well. Will try Bubbie's method next time.

    2 Replies
    1. re: markabauman

      I parboil the potatoes before grating them--avoids the issue of them turning reddish/grey and also the phenomenon of tasting slightly raw after being fried. And, don't draw liquid after grating, either. I highly recommend this approach. Here's the recipe I (sort of) follow: http://www.recipezaar.com/recipe/getr...

      1. re: Marion Morgenthal

        Latkes don't taste raw if they're fried properly. The biggest mistake people make in making latkes is frying them over too high heat, so the outsides burn before the insides are completely cooked. The burners should be no more than medium-high for frying latkes.

    2. I have heard of that technique of draining the liquid, and incorportating the leftover starch into the batter.
      We never squeeze out the liquid in a towel, or even strain the potatoes in a strainer - and our latkes have never been liquidy or mushy. We just pour out as much liquid as we easily can, from the bowl of mixed batter (shredded potato, egg, matzo meal, and grated onion). As I wrote in the other "Latkes 101" thread, I think (though I may be wrong) that the concern about wateriness comes in more when you grate your potatoes more finely. We shred the potatoes, and find that that consistency makes latkes that are nice and crispy on the outside, while still soft on the inside.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bzdhkap

        I also shred the potatoes, but I always thought that removing the liquid was a necessary part of the process.

        1. re: CindyJ

          I make latkes all the time (not only at Hannukah), and I never strain the liquid out, so it's certainly not necessary. I probably use a little more flour and egg than people who strain the liquids do, though. I personally think that squeezing all the liquid overworks the potatoes and makes them gummier, but that's JMHO. People always rave about my latkes, so I must be doing something right!

      2. Drain the grated potatoes in a strainer or colander that's set over a bowl; press down on them for improved drainage. I'm always amazed to see the potato starch magically appear at the bottom of the bowl after the potato effluent is poured off. By all means re-incorporate the starch in the mix.

        1. Use a potato ricer to squeeze the water out.

          1 Reply
          1. jfood has always used the back of a spoon pressing down on the strainer method, and he never collected the starch, but a nice idea from the Bubbie (man were they good).

            This year he is think of using the vegetable spinner. Has anyone tried that or will jfood be using those famous words "Doggie, clean up on aisle 2" for the avatar to come in and help.

            6 Replies
            1. re: jfood

              Not enought force with the spinner.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Drats, seemed like such a good idea and more simpler. How come you scientist types are always right?

                1. re: jfood

                  I tried the spinner. Just got rid of the surface water but didn't squeeze anything out. I learned about using a ricer here on CH. Works.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Sammy

                    So you grate the taters and then you squeeze in the ricer. And the potato ricer you refer to is the one that looks like a big garlic press versus the one that you turn the handle and the potatoes gets "riced" underneath, correct?

              2. re: jfood

                This is OT, but, I work in a lab, and think a lot about lab equipment that would be really useful in a kitchen (like those heated stir plates!) and I always thought that a centrifuge would be a useful kitchen device...but I guess people have been using them in the form of salad spinners for years.

                Just thinking out loud...

              3. Last year I tried this method, from the recipe linked below: "Coarsely grate by hand, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander.

                Spread grated potatoes and onion on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible."

                I got the best latkes I've ever made, so I'll be doing it again this year!

                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                10 Replies
                1. re: Chris VR

                  I'm going to say something shocking here: I usually just drain the bowl of most water by tilting it to the side and my latkes are fine. This strikes me as much ado about nothing.

                  1. re: DeisCane

                    You're right. My motive for less moisture is faster cooking in less oil.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Wait, you're supposed to cook latkes in oil?!

                      I keed!

                      Seriously, that makes sense.

                  2. re: Chris VR

                    I noticed that the Epicurious recipe has no flour or matzah meal. In your experience, they still hold together okay?

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      My bubbe has always made them without flour or matzoh meal, and they hold together just fine, so long as you drain out as much water as possible. The egg does all the work.

                      I much prefer them this way - the inside gets so creamy and delicious!

                      1. re: missfunkysoul

                        I wonder if that creamy texture has more to do with technique than ingredients. I always reclaim the potato starch and use matazh meal so that contradicts your experience missfunkysoul, but I've realized that if I keep my latkes cooking over medium heat on the first side for a long time before flipping I get that lovely melted potato texture inside a crisp outside.

                        And size. No one has mentioned size. When I make very thin latkes, they achieve that perfect balance of soft and crisp. If I scoop out too much raw potato mix, the results are never as good.

                        And, finally, I drain, drain, drain.

                        1. re: Indy 67

                          So maybe it's not the matzoh meal... you know what it could be, in addition to the cooking over lower heat (which I totally agree with)? The way the potatoes are grated... I'm always much happier with the end result when they're grated on the next-to-finest side of the grater...

                          1. re: missfunkysoul

                            I think it really depends on what kind of latkes you like. There are some people who like latkes that are more like potato croquettes, with a smooth, creamy interior, and other people (like me) who like them a little more like hash browns, with a little more toothsome texture.

                            You know what they say: two Jews, three opinions!

                      2. re: CindyJ

                        Hmm, I wish I could find the recipe I used last year- that was definitely the technique but I'm not sure if it was the same recipe. I'd swear I added some flour. It definitely held together fine. Well maybe I'll try it as written and report my results!

                        1. re: Chris VR

                          Reporting back- I made the recipe pretty much as written, although I increased the amounts by half and there might have been more egg than there was supposed to be. It looked pretty wet but I resisted the urge to add some flour, and fried as directed. They held together just fine. Although the yield on that recipe is absurd- 1 pound of potatoes to get 12-16 3 inch latkes?! No way. I got 7 latkes using maybe a pound and a half of potatoes.. They were delicious though. Creamy and smooth on the inside and nicely crunchy on the outside. And I don't think they absorbed much oil at all.

                    2. My dad is the latke maven in my family. He runs everything through the blender, and adds enough matzah meal to dry it out. Also, he fries them in part olive oil. Every year at my sister's Chanukah party we (kids, parents & grandparents) crowd around the stove as Dad pulls them out of the fry pans. There are never leftovers!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: amymsmom

                        Amy, I use the blender too. Perhaps because when my grandma made them, we had only a blender (Cuisinart didn't yet exist). It makes them creamy on the inside, crispy on the outside, we like this texture better than grating in Cuisinart. Very rare, haven't heard of too many others using the blender these days.

                        1. re: Diane in Bexley

                          Diane - I guess that's how my dad started it. Food processors didn't exist when he started making latkes (he & mom are married ~53 years). I'm sure my mom yelled at him for being old fashioned when she got her first cuisinart - she always needed the newest gadget. Dad's methods may be old school, but great latkes are timeless.

                      2. So it was my intention to use Sam F's potato ricer idea to remove the excess liquid. It was working, but it was taking forever -- my potato ricer was just too small to be efficient. So I put the shredded potatoes and onions into a large strainer that rested over a large bowl and I pressed on the contents to extract as much liquid as possible. Then I added the egg, flour, salt and pepper and mixed it all together. As I formed the latkes, I squeezed more liquid out of each one. They were wonderful!!! Crisp and golden on the outside, the way latkes ought to be.

                        To Chris's point about the number of latkes -- my result was very close to his. I used 9 good-size yukon golds -- about 4 pounds -- and ended up with 20 latkes (not counting the first two, which were the sacrificial latkes).

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: CindyJ

                          As you guys must all know from my last name, I'm one of the most kosher guys you'll ever meet!

                          Anyway, CJ, I should have prefaced my method with that I have a sort of industrial-sized ricer. As jfood reminded me, garlic cloves would have to be about the size of grapefruit to get the equivalent.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            NOW you tell me!!!! I had four latke-starved people placing bets as to whether or when the potatoes would EVER hit the frying pan.

                        2. After reading this thread, I decided to cook up some latkes for the holiday. I drained the grated potato and onion in a strainer with a weighted bowl, squeezing out the water. I took the tip I read here and poured off the water, but kept the potato starch, which I beat into the egg. I used a little matzoh meal, about a tablespoon. Some salt and pepper and fried them up. Delicious (with apple sauce)!

                          1. I find that when I grate the potatoes (in the Cuisinart I confess) and drain them thoroughly in a tea towel they make the crispiest latkes ever AND they don't discolor. Not sure why that is. I do add eggs, a little onions, salt, pepper, and a little matzoh meal. I cook it in vegetable oil (olive oil burns too quickly for latkes imho) and if it's a meat meal I mix in a little chicken fat for the flavor my grandmother taught me. YUM! Homemade applesauce...and if it's a dairy meal I get the pleasure of some sour cream!

                            1. I like crispy latkes, and I find the wrap-in-a-tea-towel-and-squeeze method to be the easiest and best for really getting out the excess moisture. Use a big enough towel that you can twist the ends together at the top and seal all the potatoes inside, then keep twisting the ends to REALLY squeeze hard. If you start by shredding them in a food processor, the most tedious part of whole prep process is peeling the potatoes, everything else takes just a couple of minutes. It stains the towel though, so I now have a dedicated "latke towel" that I use for this purpose only.

                              I haven't tried your Bubbie's technique of putting the starch back in, that sounds like a great idea.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: BobB

                                This may be a silly question but every recipe for latkes I see says to use russet potatoes. If I have boiling potatoes in the cupboard like yellow Finns should I not even bother?

                                1. re: NYCkaren

                                  I used yukon gold potatoes last night and the latkes were wonderful.

                                  1. re: NYCkaren

                                    I prefer to use Yukon golds -- you can use just about anything: some people even use sweet potatoes, beets, etc.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      Just don't do the tea-towel squeeze if you're using beets - those towels will be pink forever.

                                      1. re: piccola

                                        They're already brown forever from the potatoes! ;-)

                                2. I made my goyische latkes tonight and they were delicious. I used six russet potatoes (not the extra-large ones, just the ones you can buy in a five-pound bag at the grocery store), one onion, ~two teaspoons of salt, a lot of pepper, and three extra-large eggs.

                                  I squeezed the potatoes and onion in a towel beforehand and drained out a lot of the liquid. I let the liquid sit for a while to see how much potato starch fell to the bottom, but it didn't seem to be enough to matter, so I threw it out. Then I added the eggs and seasoning to the potatoes and began to fry them.

                                  I found that I needed to continually drain the liquid from the bowl full of potatoes. Even though I had drained them earlier, as time passed it kept filling up.

                                  I fried them over fairly low heat, so they took quite a while to cook, but the results were worth it. (I ate a couple while cooking, because I was hungry and didn't trust the family to leave some for me once I was done. Good thing, it turns out.)

                                  I can't believe the recipes that say two pounds of potatoes will make 16 latkes. I must have used almost 3-1/2 pounds and barely got 17 1/4-cup latkes. Once you drain out all the water the weight of the potatoes goes way down.

                                  1. I usually drain in a strainer into the mixing bowl I will use- that way I can drain out the liquid and keep the starch to help hold them together...
                                    I would never think of par boiling the potatoes as suggested by someone. The way to get the raw taste out is to cook them over very low heat so not to burn the outside without cooking the inside thouroughly. If you taste raw potato it means you cooked on too high heat... patience is a virtue when cooking potato pancakes...

                                    1. I first learned about returning the potato starch (after disgarding the liquid drained) to the potato/onion mixture from Mimi Sheraton in her wonderful (old) cookbook From My Mother's Kitchen.
                                      It really is a great little hint, and the latkes are delicious.
                                      I don't remember my bubbie making latkes(although I am sure she did) but I have vivid memories of her making schlishkes!!!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: bxgirl

                                        My personal philosophy about latkes is that there are no bad latkes, only fussy eaters :)
                                        I learned to make latkes from my dad's uncle Marty and his methods were; grate, mix and fry. He was so quick that the potatoes never turned color and the liquid had no chance to ooze from the potatoes. I have used the towel wringing method and although it was effective it was a mess! Ugh!